I recently brought a new German Shepherd to live with me and had to suddenly focus on an issue I thought I knew a lot about… She had been fed a very exclusive diet for most of her life. She was on a raw food diet for her first year and since then has been eating a human grade dog food combo which, needless to say, was waaaay beyond my financial station!!
I understood that the transition to something that not only addressed her specific needs (she is a high octane two-year-old with allergies) and stayed within my time/money constraints would be tricky and so I have spent a LOT of time researching different options. Do you know how many different viewpoints, kibbles and exotic edible species there are on the market for our dogs?? I didn’t even know Wild Boar was an option…and I don’t think she did either!! So, in an attempt to put some of these choices in perspective, I contacted a Veterinarian or two and a couple of breeders to try to get a sensible overview..
OK so lets start with the big one…Raw Diet. There is a lot of buzz about this nowadays and of course, many differing opinions. Of course we want our dogs to eat something that is palatable and species-specific but although this does seem to make sense on many levels one should take into account all aspects of this type of dog food. Uncooked meat may carry other elements besides the meat itself and is not necessarily a completely balanced diet alone. There may be health dangers (worms, salmonella, and trichinosis) associated with a raw diet and the product itself will need careful preparation and storage. It is also more difficult to measure appropriate amounts to be fed and levels of fat/protein. For those who are interested in preparing a meal for their dog, there are many online sites which will talk you through creating a raw diet for your dog…take a look and keep an open mind. I will mention that this was not a popular choice with most of the vets I talked to.
The New “Wild” Suddenly we are totally intrigued by the idea of feeding our dogs something that is “found in the wild…Wild Buffalo, Wild Boar, Wild Salmon, Wild Turkey, Wild Venison…okay, okay. My big question is “Why Wild” and Really? Who is harvesting all this wild meat and where is it being processed? Also, when I read the ingredients, these meats are still labeled as “meal” so they still undergo intensive processing…not that I have a specific problem with that except when the price of these dog foods doubles my spending…I do love the pictures on the bags tho’ and I also understand that the idea is very appealing but don’t really understand why these foods might be better.
“Grain Free” Again, understandable if your dog has an allergy or reaction that has been diagnosed but not necessarily preferable if he can tolerate this delivery of carbohydrates… Maybe a little reaction to our personal dietary preferences these days? I like the idea of no wheat and no soy but have also fed many dogs on dogfoods with wheat ingredients without adverse effects.
“Rainbow Colors” So very appealing to us, all those colors but as dogs don’t really differentiate between many colors, they don’t make much difference to the nutrients contained within the food and especially in the case of red can be very distressing to the dog’s digestive system and can cause all kinds of allergic reactions. AVOID.
Every dog requires a good balanced diet…but a Chihuahua will not need the same diet as a Greyhound or a Mastiff or a Labrador. Aside from the various breed variations, there are questions of activity and age to be considered. Many puppies need to change their food when they reach their teens, then as an adult and again when they reach their older years. You may be able to stay with the same brand but do not feel that you must. It is more important to consider the individual requirements and life stages of your dog. Don’t’ be afraid to add extra veggies if you like but remember not to cook then for a human palate. No extra salt, sugar or spices. If you want to add canned meat, go ahead but remember that most canned meats are 70-75% water. If you want to throw in a little chicken or other meat from time to time, the same goes. Don’t spice it up and cook first.
I was given a couple of very sensible pieces of advice recently…DON’T go for the fads…and DO choose a company that has been around for a long time and is large enough to be able to spend the time and money researching and developing the best product. Most kibbles these days have a good enough proportion of vitamins, minerals and supplements to maintain your dog’s optimum health. DON’T be convinced into purchasing additional expensive supplements and vitamins unless it has been recommended by your vet and DON’T change your dog’s food regularly without good reason. If you do have to do so, do it VERY slowly and pay close attention to your dogs behavior, health and elimination when you do. We humans love variety but our dogs are much more comfortable with routine…and remember, even the most delicious food that a dog can think of is usually BROWN!!!
Thank you to Doctor Donna Piercy for her wise contributions to this article and Good Luck to all German Shepherd Owners!!
– Janine Lazarus, Hashtag #100. April 2018. Follow Janine at goodladd.net!